Category Archives: Books

Box of Books part 4

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There for a while I was taken with pop-up books. The big pages that jumped out at you didn’t do much for me. It was the levers and dials that moved things and changed the pictures that fascinated me. There was some kind of mechanics going on in the narrow of the pages. Sometimes I could figure out what it was, sometimes I couldn’t. We only had a few of these and we had to keep them on a shelf not in our room so we didn’t tear then up. I remember one about a haunted house, Super Pickle, and this one.


My absolute favorite books when I was in grade school were the Alvin Fernald books. I read them over and over, especially this one, the amazing Inventions of Alvin Fernald. There’s some story there about rescuing an old lady or something, but it was his inventions that fascinated me. The bed maker, the automatic lawn mower, the burglar alarm. There was another book about him saving the environment, one about him becoming the mayor, and a couple other cool things. Until recently I had a stack of these books, but have since passed then on to someone who will hopefully enjoy them almost as much as I did.


I found this at grandma and granddad Sears’s and kept it. I think it used to be dad’s. It’s full of puzzles and games and stunts and even a few magic tricks from back in the 40s. A lot of match stick and checker type things. There’s one that would be fun to try at the staff Christmas party, but it would probably hurt someone. It involves getting a group of people to all kneel on one knee in a row, then giving the first one a shove and watching all of them go l like dominoes. Ah the good old days when you could injure a bunch of people with no legal consequences.

Box of Books part 3

More books from the box of books . . .

fear and loathing

I started reading Thompson when he was writing about the Reagan administration in Rolling Stone when I was in college. It was those articles that lead me to the books. I didn’t read them all, but most of them. Fear and Loathing made a bit of an impact on me. I hadn’t read anything like it before. It was one of those books that lead to other explorations of strangeness, both in other art and in life. I think all my Thompson books, read and unread, were given to a nephew several years ago. This garage sale paperback was picked up a couple years ago for old time’s sake. Plus it has the original Steadman artwork which is pretty sweet. Never saw the movie.

been down

I think I would have made a better beatnik than a hippy. This is another beatnik book. I don’t remember where it came from, but it was during my K-State days. Years later I don’t remember the story’s details, but I do remember the main character’s general angst about what he was going to do with his life. Looking back at my reading and writing from the time, that’s something I wrestled with more than I remember. I did do some anxious wandering back in the day.


Another beatnik I think. I have two of Brautigan’s books, one poetry, one prose, purchased together at a used bookstore before is ever heard of Brautigan, based solely on the covers and a brief reading of a couple pages. I love both books. Short clever pieces that truly find the universal in the specific. Sometimes hopeful, mostly sad, just like Brautigan’s life. His stuff is worth seeking out I think. A lot of its probably on the web. I’m glad I have my paper copies. I’ve included a few samples.

b1 b2 b3 b4

Box of Books part 2

More treasures from my box of books . . .


I like Twain a lot. This is my favorite. It’s such a silly book sometimes. And it also has a lot to say. A messy masterpiece. My favorite part is when Huck decides he’s just not good enough of a person to do the right thing and return Jim to his owners. He decides he’ll just help his friend even if that means going to hell. More of us should have this kind of morality. Also this book inspired me to take a raft down the Missouri to the Mississippi to New Orleans. Although I haven’t done it yet.

maltese falcon

My freshman year in college I couldn’t get enough old timey private detective stuff. I ate up Hammett and Raymond Chandler. If I could have figured out how, I would have dropped out and opened up my own agency. I knew that was a stupid juvenile idea, but dang it seemed like it would be fun. Alas that was a dream I didn’t follow.

earth is lords

Garage sale find, summer of ’86. I would have left it but a guy I was painting houses with at the time suggested it. (He was working on his PhD in poetry at the time.) It’s an epically told story of Genghis Khan. It’s pretty sweet. I started to read it to the kids once. We made it as far as his birth, graphically told, his uncle reaching in to remove the child from his sister and bringing a bloody Genghis into the world. Not sure why we didn’t make it any further than that. I’m willing to give it another read though.

Box of Books part 1

I uncovered a box of books that had been covered up since we moved a couple summers ago.  It was a treasure trove.  Here’s part of what it contained.


I bought this book in the bargain bin at the k state union my freshman year. I was taken with it enough that I hung on to it for 30 years. As a kid I loved the Gong Show for its pure bizarreness and because of Chuck Barris. I loved this book for the same reason–Barris as CIA hit man! In 2002 Clooney made a film of the book. I’ve never seen it.


The book’s pretty good, but this cover is amazing.


Asimov was another of my favorites back in the day. I’ve read most of his science fiction, but the foundation books were my favorite. In fact, after talking a break from reading during my first three years of high school, it was the first foundation book that brought me back. For some reason I picked up a new paperback reprint of the first book during my senior year, read it, liked it, and read the rest. It’s fun to find a write you like and then tear through all their stuff you can find. I’ve cleared out the rest, but I’m keeping the foundation.


Vonnegut is obviously one of my favorites. I got to hear him speak at KU back in the day. His are a couple of the few books I’ve read more than once. I need to revive my tradition of reading one of his books on our birthday. Yeah, Vonnegut and I share a birthday. No big deal.


More to come . . .

The Door Into Summer

by Robert Heinlein


I like when 1950’s science fiction imagines all sorts of futuristic advancements, but that folks still have their mid-20th century positive attitudes about industry and growth and capitalism and such. It’s comforting to go back to a time, even if it’s in the future, when industry and growth and capitalism didn’t mean the abuse of people and the earth. (Ok, ok, I know that the industrial revolution brought horrible consequences along with cheap textiles, and one of my favorite television shows, Hell on Wheels, focuses on just one corruption-ridden business, the railroad in the 19th century, but let me occasionally live in the land of 1950s television commercials.) The main character in the novel is Dan Davis, an engineer and an inventor. He invents robots that do household tasks. Really he’s an innovator. He’s proud of the fact that he’s able to take technology that already exists and change it just a bit to produce completely new results. A good example of this is when he takes an electric typewriter, you know, like they use in the future, tinkers with it a bit, and creates a device that types architectural plans. Coincidentally, while reading this book I was being trained on a computer program called Revit that is used to design buildings. It’s fun that Heinlein missed predicting the personal computer (and email) revolution (Davis spends a lot of time at the post office and making phone calls), but was still able fairly accurately predict computer/electric typewriter programming.

The story revolves around Davis going into business with a couple of people of folks who turn out to be shady characters, including one really awful/great femme fatale. This part of the story reads like an old hard boiled crime novel, one of my favorite genres, so that was fun. In order to get his head off his business partners’ chopping block, Davis engages in some twisty and turney time travel maneuvers, something else I enjoy.

And there’s something in there about his cat, that seems really important to him at the beginning of the story, but it don’t remember. And something about a door into summer, a metaphor that may have been missed on me.

But among the engineering discussions, the noir fiction element, the 1950’s future, the fun characters, and especially the plot twists and turns made possible by the time travel, I really enjoyed this book.